We’re waking up every day to a new world, with information and insecurities we’ve never experienced before. Everyone has been affected by this pandemic in a different way, but there’s one thing we all share as pet parents, and that’s a concern for our furry friends and how to keep them safe.
Both dogs and cats that have tested positive for COVID-19. In Hong Kong, 17 dogs and 8 cats that were living with COVID-19 infected people were tested, and 2 dogs (who were asymptomatic) tested positive. One dog tested positive but no live virus could be cultured, though the virus was cultured from the other dog. This, along with some pre-print findings regarding experimental infection in dogs, suggests that the virus does not survive well in dogs, may not be very transmissible between dogs, and does not cause disease in dogs. One cat tested positive as well, but also was asymptomatic and not shedding the virus.
In Belgium, a cat that was living with a COVID-19 infected person also tested positive. Experimental studies with cats have demonstrated that they may be more susceptible to acquiring the infection than dogs. However, the transmission appears to be very low, as a study of 102 cats from Wuhan, China reported only 15 tested positive to one test, and of those, only 11 had generated antibodies against the virus, indicating again a low infection rate.
There is no need to panic; no cases of cat- or dog-to-human transmission have been reported, and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) does not appear to be a clinical manifestation of COVID-19 in dogs or cats. COVID-19 does not appear to cause any sort of illness in dogs, and, if it causes any disease in cats (which we are still not certain of as the number of positive cases have been so low), it would appear that the clinical picture of COVID-19 for cats may be the same as their regular feline Coronavirus, which typically causes minimal, if any, signs of mild self-limiting gastrointestinal upset or respiratory signs.
There is no evidence that dogs, cats, or their accessories (harnesses/collars/leads) can transmit the virus, and again, there have been no documented cases of transmission from dogs or cats to humans. Having said that, maintaining good social distancing and hygiene is still important! Avoid taking your pet to high risk areas and don’t allow people to touch them. Avoid having your pet around any people known to be sick or infected. If you go out for a walk with your dog, wash your hands when you get home. If someone you don’t know touched your dog’s lead, go ahead and wash it with soap and water, or wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe. Cleaning and washing with normal soap are enough to disrupt the virus envelop and render it harmless. No harsh chemicals are needed for cleaning. Remember, dogs and cats have sensitive skin, so don’t try to disinfect them! If they have been in contact with someone, a bath with their regular pet shampoo would be as effective at removing potentially infectious virus particles.
A helpful resource for concerned pet parents is the Worms and Germs blog by Dr. Scott Weese of the University of Guelph, Ontario. His pragmatic, evidence-based approach provides excellent, up-to-date information with practical tips and tools on how to stay safe.
Enjoy yourselves and your pets. While you might not be walking your dog as much as you did before, this can be a great opportunity to do some training and bonding exercises with them – and with your cats! If you’re able to work remotely, make sure you take a break once in a while and play with/pamper/cuddle/appreciate your pet! Everyone benefits from a little positivity boost once in a while.
Best wishes and tail wags,
Dr. Sarah Dodd, BVSc, MSc